LISTENING BOOTH:  Paying Attention in Public since 2007

LB project space chairs

In the opening scene of The Godfather, the screen is black as a voice begins to speak, and then a man’s face fills the screen as he struggles to recount the brutal assault his daughter has experienced at the hands of her boyfriend and another man. For those first few moments, we are the listener, and then, as the camera pulls back, we see we are listening over the shoulder of Don Corleone. Corleone takes in the story in weighted silence; a slight lift of his hand is enough to direct an attendant to deliver a shot of whiskey to the speaker, Amerigo Bonasera to help him collect himself.

Were it not for the fact that Bonasera proffers this story to petition Corleone to order “justice,” i.e. the murder of these two men, this exchange, in its directness, its sense of privacy, and relatively formal economy, could be taking place within Listening Booth, a public project I started in 2007 in San Francisco that investigates and enacts the power of one person listening to another.

Open-air vault, chamber without walls, Listening Booth is dedicated to sharing one of the most precious and yet infinitely renewable resources: attention. It is founded on the brightening effect of being listened to, even for a brief period of time.

Unlike Corleone’s brocade walls, the “booth” of Listening Booth is enclosed not by a structure but by regard, and the conversations transpire in public spaces.

Don Corleone tells Bonasera, “That I cannot do.” He tells him, basically, You never even came by for coffee and now you’re asking me to do this? I started this project because I, like Don Corleone, thrive on what happens when people just talk to each other, even for five minutes without checking the phone or the clock. I was becoming nostalgic for such conversations.

from Listening Booth: Public Displays of Attention, on, 2011.  Read the rest of the article here.



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